Saying that “cuts to special education would create significant funding gaps that would force school districts to shift funds from general education programs, increase class sizes, or raise property taxes, just to maintain their current levels of special education services,” Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the K-12 Education Finance Omnibus Bill, (HF 934) May 24. Dayton raised a number of red flags about the bill, stating that it would pit student against student and district against district.
Dayton’s goal when the 2011 legislative session began was to provide $36 million in new funding for schools, including additional funds for special education. The bill put forward by state lawmakers cut school funding by $44 million between current base-funding levels. It also contained none of the Dayton administration’s proposals for education.
When the session started, both the House and Senate had eliminated the 4.6% special education growth factor. In addition it had eliminated the 2% growth factor for special education excess cost, which is way for school districts to get some relief when they have “extraordinary” special education costs. Both formulas help offset year to year increasing costs of special education. Later the legislature reinstated in the bill a 2% special education growth factor and 3% excess cost growth factor for fiscal year 2012-2013; In fiscal year 2014-2015, the special education growth factor returns to 4.6% and excess cost 2%.
As of Access Press deadline, Dayton did use his veto pen on the K-12 Education Policy Bill. This bill currently includes special education policy changes such as:
• Child with a Disability Definition—updates disability category names; including removing “mental disability” to the current, more appropriate “developmental cognitive disability.”
• Prone Restraint in Emergencies— Allows prone restraint in emergencies In addition, it requires reporting all uses of prone restraint to the Minnesota Department of Education and requires the Minnesota Department of Education to report back to the state legislature by February 1, 2012 on the use of prone restraints in schools.
• Early Childhood Vision Screenings – Schools to provide information to parents that a vision screening is not a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam.
One policy matter that special education advocates watched closely didn’t happen. This legislation would have meant even more sweeping changes and cuts.
The bill was proposed by Sen. John Pederson (R-St. Cloud) and Rep. King Banaian (R-St. Cloud). They introduced legislation which proposed the elimination of 54 sections of special education law and 28 sections of special education rules. If this bill had passed it would of created significant gaps in Minnesota’s special education system, disrupted services for children, and created a lack of uniformity of services from one school district to another.
The purpose of the bill was to reduce Minnesota special education laws and rules to those of the federal minimum. Neither bill was heard in committee and neither moved forward in the legislative process. Both authors have stated that they will continue to work on this bill for possible introduction in the 2012 session.
Kim Kang works on children’s disability policy issues for The Arc of Minnesota.